Dave Hardwick insists the Haverhill Borough players deserve all the plaudits after they sealed an historic promotion for the club this week.
Borough will be playing Step Five football for the first time in their history next season, after a 13-0 thrashing of Leiston Reserves at The New Croft 3G on Easter Monday guaranteed them a top-three finish in the Thurlow Nunn League First Division.
And Hardwick, who took over as chairman last May, admits the club’s achievements still felt ‘surreal’, as they get ready to join Haverhill Rovers in the Thurlow Nunn League Premier Division in 2017/18.
“I was talking with Martin (Westcott, Borough manager) the other night about it, and it’s all a bit surreal really,” the Borough chairman said.
“From where we were at the start of the season, I never envisaged this.
“From June, when we lost players to Rovers, to where we are now, it’s nothing short of amazing.
“It’s down to the hard work of A - the players, and B - the club itself. I can’t fault anyone, the playing staff, the committee, they’ve all pulled their weight this season.”
It has been a remarkable rise up the leagues for Borough, who were only formed back in 2011, under the name of the Haverhill Sports Association.
In their first season, the club won the Essex & Suffolk Border League Division One title, and a season later their second place finish in the Premier Division was enough to earn them promotion to the Thurlow Nunn League.
The 2013/14 season saw Borough narrowly miss out on a third straight promotion by one point, with a fourth place finish in the First Division followed by finishes of sixth and eighth in the next two seasons.
A 5-0 triumph over Stowmarket Town, who are coincidentally Borough’s main title rivals this season, saw them lift the Thurlow Nunn League First Division Knockout Cup crown last May.
Player-manager Martin Westcott then had to administer a rebuilding job to his squad in the summer, having lost six of the players who started their cup final win to other clubs, and few would have predicted another tilt at promotion would arise, in their first season at The New Croft 3G.
A 10-match winning run between December 27 and February 25 propelled Westcott’s side from seventh, and four points off the top three, up to second and eight points clear of fourth place.
Defeats to King’s Lynn Town Reserves, and then promotion rivals Woodbridge Town on Saturday, only acted as a small bump in the road for Borough, whose victory on Monday was their 17th win in their last 19 league games and secured them promotion to the Thurlow Nunn League’s top flight for the first time.
Westcott stepped up from being assistant manager to become player-manager in January 2015 and said his team’s achievements on Monday had still not quite sunk in yet.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet,” he said. “It’s been really nice getting all the nice messages, some even from people I didn’t even know, congratulating us. It’s been a real collective effort. I’ve been playing at this level for 23 years and I’ve only been promoted once, with Rovers 10 years ago. Getting promoted is a difficult thing to do. It’s still sinking in.”
Borough (2nd) still have a slim chance of finishing top and being crowned champions of the First Division, as they visit Whitton United for their final game on Saturday (3pm) two points behind leaders Stowmarket, but having played a game more.
n Haverhill Borough Reserves (1st) host Cambridge University Press Reserves in their final game of the season in Kershaw Senior B on Saturday (3pm).